Cindy Coldiron on Creating Cast Recycled Glass Public Art






I was recently awarded an Arlington County Public Art grant to create a group of kiln-cast recycled glass sculptural works. I’ll be creating the works over the next few months, and they will be installed in a county park next spring.

From the time I was a child I was always fascinated with how various decorative objects were made. My grandmother had collected affordable art glass and ceramics, and I became a collector myself in my teens. Beginning in the mid 1990’s, I started taking art classes through the Arlington County recreation program. I took classes in pottery, cloth weaving, basket weaving, and painting. But the class that really created an intense continuing interest was a stained glass class taught by the artist Jimmy Powers (who is now a resident artist at the Lorton Arts Center). During one class, Jimmy brought in a small kiln and mentioned fusing glass. I was instantly drawn to kiln-cast glass sculpture – it combined my love of 3-D sculpture with glass.

Ten years ago next month I won two grand championships at the Arlington County Fair – including for a glass vessel called “Pond Life”. After my initial wins, I was so enthused with art competitions that I began to enter professional level juried art shows – starting with the Torpedo factory and the former Wilson Center gallery in Washington DC. I decided to set up my own art glass business in late 2000. I worked for years creating vessels from a glass purchased for fusing, but the rising costs of the glass prohibited me from working on a larger and thicker scale.

Glass-w-extra-space-littleThree years ago I began experimenting with making sculpture from recycled glass (including bottles, window glass, and table top glass.) Creating work from recycled glass has forced me to learn a whole new set of technical skills. Each type of glass reacts differently when you work with it, depending on a number of factors. Glass expands and contracts upon heating and cooling and it does so at different rates depending on its coefficients of expansion (COE.) If the COE of all the glass in a piece is not the same – or near the same – the piece will crack upon cooling.

The glass used to create most art glass comes from sheets pre-tested for fusing compatibility. Recycled glass, in contrast, has various unknown COE’s. Window and bottle glass (also known as “float glass”) are an inexpensive source of glass, but the COE’s can range greatly from bottle to bottle, even for the exact same product. Until three years ago I had always used glass from the same large sheets for my kiln-cast sculptures. To create my new work, I have done compatibility tests and found a few types of bottle glass that do tend to work with each other.

Recycled glass is also different in that it has to be fired at higher temperatures to get it to melt in a kiln. When you create glass pieces you frequently fire the work multiple times. I’ve found that with recycled glass I get about three attempts to fire and re-fire the same piece of glass (at temperatures over 1600 degrees) before the glass stiffens up and does not want to flow. Between firings, the cooled piece is cold worked with various sanders, dremel tools, tile saws, etc. in order to remove the mold casting materials, kiln wash and rough edges.

I am hopeful that people will appreciate my artwork when it goes up, and also that the work will bring increased attention to the uses of recycled glass. Glass comprises a large amount – by both volume and weight – of the post-consumer waste stream. I hope my work will inspire others to explore new uses for recycled materials, including glass.

This is a permanent installation piece where all the pieces work together to give a cohesive theme/message. What the viewer will see is a series of cast recycled glass dragonflies (18 inches or so each) all on a huge round mound flying towards a blue glass “pond” vessel. The theme is destination, and the sculpture conveys activity, a goal. I’m very proud to have received this commission, and hope you’ll follow my ongoing work on the public art project by looking at

In the years since becoming a professional artist, my work has been exhibited at numerous juried shows and exhibitions, including the former Wilson Center Gallery in NW Washington, DC, the Art League (Torpedo Factory) in Alexandria, Virginia; the Washington Square Sculpture shows; corporate exhibitions; and “Art Anonymous” at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. I have won numerous awards including a recent public art grant from Arlington County. I have studied art through Arlington County classes, the Millennium Arts Center (predecessor to the Washington Glass School); the Art League at the Torpedo factory and at the Lorton Wokrhouse Arts Center. My artist website is at

Bourgeon’s mission, through our online publication and community initiatives, is twofold: to increase participation in the arts and to improve access to the arts. Bourgeon is a project of the not-for-profit Day Eight.
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  1. Hi there!
    I was very interested to read about your work with kiln cast recycled glass.
    I am a year 2 Applied Arts student at Plymouth College of Art in Devon, UK, about to embark on my self initiated project of research with recycled glass. Very little art work is produced here using recycled glass so there is very little knowledge to draw on. Would you be willing to share any of your findings with me to start me on my research?


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